Editorial: Here’s the ‘radical change’ that Sam Rasoul thinks Democrats need

AIA 2020

Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2016 12:00 am

The Roanoke Times

Shortly before Thanksgiving, a junior member of the minority party in Richmond did something that is hard for someone of that lowly status to do.

He made statewide news.

Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, quit his post as treasurer of the House Democratic Caucus and issued a cryptic statement calling for “radical change”: “We have been discussing for years the need for change, and now the voters have clearly spoken. While change takes time, it is critical that we begin a massive overhaul. The caucus seems to have little intention of entertaining that. As a Democrat, I want to use my energy toward efforts that restore trust among the people. That can only be accomplished by pushing radical change.”

What, exactly, does that mean?

Probably not what either astonished Democrats or gleeful Republicans are thinking.

Across the country, Democrats are grappling over how to respond to their staggering defeat in the presidential election. Should they move to the left? Should they try to reframe their pitch to appeal more to white, working-class voters? Rasoul says those are the wrong questions. “This is not a left-right debate,” he says. Instead, he’s thinking in an entirely different dimension. To fully understand where he’s coming from, we need to rewind to Dec. 7, 2013, because that’s when Rasoul’s differences with fellow House Democrats really began.

In November that year, Onzlee Ware resigned his seat in the House of Delegates (he’s now a judge), setting in motion a special election. On Dec. 7, Rasoul edged out three challengers in a “firehouse primary” to win his party’s nomination. That night, operatives from the House Democratic Caucus were standing by to take over the winner’s campaign against the Republican nominee. Rasoul told them “thanks, but no thanks.”

“I said I will do my own campaign,” Rasoul said. “I do my own messaging. I do my own mail. I have a brand focused on positive values. And I’m not about to throw any of that down the drain.”

The way Rasoul tells it, House Democrats wanted him to run a negative campaign against Republican Octavia Johnson. He didn’t want any part of it. “I didn’t want them to do any negative poll questions,” he says. “It didn’t matter to me because I wasn’t ever going to use it. We fought back and forth. We secretly made our own TV ads and placed our own spots. They said no one had ever done that in the history of the caucus.”

There were two special elections happening that January — this one to fill Ware’s seat and another to fill a state Senate seat in Norfolk. Democrats assumed they’d win the Norfolk seat but were worried that the contrarian Rasoul who had spurned their advice might not make it in Roanoke. Instead, Democrats barely won in Norfolk, while Rasoul won by nearly a 3-to-1 margin. “That was a vindicating moment,” he says.

Rasoul’s theory on how to win a campaign had come out of a previous defeat — his unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2008. His was not a “targeted race” that year, meaning the party paid little attention to what was clearly a long-shot bid. So he was on his own. Rasoul decided that he would not say anything about his opponent that his opponent wouldn’t agree with. He’d focus on the issues, not anything else. That didn’t work out so well in a Republican-heavy congressional district, but Rasoul is still convinced it’s a better way to run — and eventually win.

It’s a point he’s been trying to make within his party ever since — just without much success. The current political paradigm is that a candidate must attack the other side. Rasoul says that might win one election, but it won’t build a party over the long term. “When you scare someone into voting, it’s a one-time thing,” he says. He says it’s better to build a political party that people trust to look out for their interests. He calls on his background as a business consultant: Car companies used to sell cars through high-pressure sales techniques. Now, the focus is shifting toward building brand loyalty so the customer keeps coming back.

“Both major political parties have a branding problem: Solid majorities don’t trust either one,” Rasoul wrote in a commentary in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper back in June. He presciently urged his party then not to build its presidential campaign simply around attacking Donald Trump: “As a Democrat, I am hoping my party will not double-down on negative politics.” He especially warned that such tactics would not excite young voters. “Those antiquated tactics do not build trust with voters, especially emerging voters. Millennials gauge trust differently from previous generations, favoring sincerity even more than competence in deciding how much trust to place in our leaders.”

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Article: “A Tale of Two Muslims: Frank Gaffney’s Apocalypse, or Not”

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Written By: Tom Julia

President-elect Donald Trump faces many challenges, not the least of which are those related to homeland security. How Trump deals with the domestic and international Muslim communities is also of considerable import, given his campaign rhetoric and a nation that has experienced violent actions by anti-western Muslims, as well as violence against Muslims.

This week’s news includes speculation that Frank Gaffney is advising the Trump transition team.  That news has quickly brought out the Gaffney haters. Continue reading “Article: “A Tale of Two Muslims: Frank Gaffney’s Apocalypse, or Not””

Article: “A Tale of Two Muslims: Rizwan Jaka and ADAMS Speak Out”

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Written By: Tom Julia

Last week the Tribune summarized our interview with Frank Gaffney and his views on Muslims, Sharia and Islamic leaders in the U.S. His is a controversial point of view, and one that has brought him and the Center for Security Policy much criticism. But Gaffney has his advocates too, and his concerns go to the heart of the question of who the U.S. government should trust and work with among U.S. Muslim leaders.

To hear another perspective, we interviewed leaders of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Islamic Center in Sterling, one of the largest and most influential mosques in the U.S.

ADAMS is led by a 13-member Board of Trustees chaired by Rizwan Jaka. Continue reading “Article: “A Tale of Two Muslims: Rizwan Jaka and ADAMS Speak Out””

Senator Tim Kaine Spends Last Day Before VP Pick Showing why Virginia Matters

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On July 21, 2016, Sen. Tim Kane visited the ADAMS Center at the invitation of both ADAMS and AIA 2020 to speak to a group of interfaith and civic leaders and representatives about religious freedom and tolerance, in light of the highly charged atmosphere created by the presidential campaign and the rhetoric of many across America who attacked Islam and Muslims, and propose “solutions” that would be a clear violation of our almost 250 year history of First Amendment attention of religion in America.

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The was especially appropriate, given the intense speculation surrounding the pending selection of the vice presidential Running Made for the Clinton campaign. Sen. Cain was actually selected to be Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee less than two days after his visit ADAMS.

That speculation not only produced significant media interest in the event, but dominated many of the questions and discussions at the event. However, the Senator was not only extremely calm and personable in the face of the intense media interest, but never avoided any issues or questions from the audience about his long-standing commitments to religious freedom everywhere.

As reported in the referenced article in the Great Falls Connection, “At times Kaine was giving mini history lessons on the First Amendment and Freedom of Religion.  He also showed his philosophical, thoughtful side, relating a story about one question he often asked as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras.  “As human beings, we have an instinctive appreciation of diversity in nature. I would ask people ‘Do you have a favorite flower? ‘And most people do have a favorite flower. Then I would ask ‘Do you want every flower to be that flower?’ Of course not,” Kaine said, smiling.”

The event was not only a great success, but gave members of the community, our interfaith partners and our civic partners (like NAACP leaders from both Fairfax and Loudoun counties) the opportunity to share their hopes and aspirations for the future, as well as their concerns, with the Senator and to express their own support for the principles of freedom that have been enshrined first in the Virginia Declaration of Religious Freedom, and later in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

At the end of the presentation, the Senator was literally surrounded not only by media representatives, but by audience members who wanted to ask specific questions, and perhaps more important, to wish him well if he should receive the nomination for the Vice Presidency.

AIA 2020 was quite proud to be involved in this effort, and to use this opportunity to promote our determination to not only provide a platform for a better understanding of Islam and Muslims, but a way that we and our interfaith and civic partners can work together with officials like Senator Kaine to ensure that there be no encroachments on religious freedom under any Administration in America.

For more information, please see the referenced media article in the Great Falls Connection.

Fairfax County Names 2016 Top Volunteer

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Fairfax, VA — The Fairfax County 2016 “Barbara Varon Volunteer Award” was presented to AIA 2020 Executive Director Robert Marro for his exemplary efforts to increase participation in the democratic process among new Americans living in Northern Virginia.

The Barbara Varon Volunteer Award was initiated more than 12 years ago to recognize the volunteer effort required to ensure every American has the access and the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.  

Marro was nominated by John Foust, Supervisor of the Dranesville District, and received his award during the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors October Meeting on Tuesday Oct 18.  Cited for his work as Government Outreach Chair for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society  (ADAMS) since 2002, Marro has been instrumental in giving the ADAMS community a major role in civic engagement in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia.

Marro, also a Founding member and Director of the Alliance for an Indivisible America 2020 (AIA2020), has developed numerous programs to help foreign-born community members understand both the Federal and Virginia civic election process.   Sharon Bulova, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, noted Marro has “worked tirelessly to make the ADAMS Center an institution that has become a “mandatory stop for officials and candidates in every election.”   Marro was especially commended for his consistent and enduring non-partisan approach to government outreach.  

Over the years,” Bulova said, “Mr. Marro has led ADAMS teams in arranging annual candidate forums and Annual Town Hall meetings for local Senators and Delegates to brief hundreds of ADAMS and community members on issues and activities of the Virginia Legislative session and other topical events.   The teams organize civic meetings for the FBI, Homeland Security, Department of Justice, State Department, TSA and USCIS and other US agency officials to brief the community on their activities and programs.  For ADAMS’ “Path to Naturalization” event earlier this year, Marro collaborated with eight other Virginia civic groups, to teach (and encourage) an audience of 300+ Virginians how to become US citizens in time to vote in November.  

Marro accepted the award on behalf of the “ADAMS Center and all our partner mosques, interfaith and civic organizations.  I truly feel all our efforts have made Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties a place where people of all races, religions and ethnicities can thrive and prosper, and participate fully in our globally coveted democratic process”.

For more information or to talk to Marro directly, please contact

info@aia2020.org or call (703) 421-8045